In early September 2012, Tamara Lindeman sat in a Hillsborough barn and, to a small but rapt audience, played songs from her year-old LP, All of It Was Mine. It was a stop on the Ontario native's first-ever American tour and a precursor to an "official" anchor date at the Hopscotch Music Festival. For the crowd, the gathering felt special, but for Lindeman, that trip would ultimately bear more fruit than she could imagine.
She met new friends, musicians with whom she'd end up recording. Around the same time, she met Brendan Greaves, who cofounded the Carrboro-based label Paradise of Bachelors.
"It was just this crazy coincidence of people finding the music who understood it," she recalls. "It was this really funny thing that just sort of happened independently, where all of these people in this community were exposed to this record and fell in love with it and wanted to help me, basically, which was crazy."
Earlier this year, Paradise of Bachelors released Lindeman's fourth album as The Weather Station, a breathtaking, self-titled LP. There, Lindeman proves that, five years after her fortuitous first trip south, The Weather Station is more finely tuned than ever.
When she was touring in support of All of It Was Mine, Lindeman did so mostly on her own, with a single acoustic guitar that didn't even have a pickup in it; it had to be miked at every venue.
"Every show was like, this extremely intense experience of loneliness. It was just me, and I had to battle the situation and try to turn it to my favor," Lindeman says. "Having done that, I felt like I had the foundation to want to build on it, and to want other people on stage, and to want to be louder."
The Weather Station isn't a loud record, per se, but it's certainly a stark contrast to the hushed, nearly whispered songs of All of It Was Mine. At the time, Lindeman says, making quiet music by herself was her way of pushing back against having spent a lot of time in bigger, noisier bands. She's been building up to this point gradually—gentle percussion became slightly more prominent on her 2014 EP, What Am I Going to Do With Everything I Know, and 2015's Loyalty dipped into tasteful full-band arrangements. But The Weather Station, released in October, is Lindeman's most stately release yet. Its instrumental layers lend even more nuance to her words, and the arrangements are enough to give Lindeman some extra oomph without overshadowing her. Especially now, Lindeman says, it was important to her to make a record that wasn't all delicate solo ruminations.
"It didn't feel right with where the world is, and where my mind was, and what I wanted to say. Quietness and beauty just were not in my mind at all," she says.
And so she set about building the arrangements around the songs for The Weather Station. She wanted busy bass playing like she'd heard on records by Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Dylan; she wanted tom-fill drum parts that echoed the traditional music of Canada's maritime provinces; she wanted her voice to take up a lot of space; she wanted exuberance.
With ringing clarity, Lindeman's voice breezes between electric guitars and splashing cymbals over dense passages of confessional lyrics that sting even after she has already moved on. Such intimately detailed songwriting has always been a hallmark of Lindeman's work, and her latest batch of songs is no exception. She touches on topics like isolation, uncertainty, insecurity, and desire, and where others might flinch at revealing their most sensitive innermost feelings, Lindeman bravely charges onto the field. But even that took some adjustment.
"It didn't feel like I felt fearless, it just felt like I had to feel fearless. I've been doing this for a long time, and I want to do it forever. If I hold back, I'm serving no one," she says. "If I can let something out and actually reveal myself exactly how my mind actually, really works—it's this huge gamble, but if I don't do that, what's the point?"
There's another force in Lindeman's life that shaped her new songs: shame. She thinks about it a lot, she says.
"I find it really interesting. I, like a lot of women I know, experience so much shame all the time. I constantly feel ashamed of my songs, my lyrics, my arrangements, everything I do," she says.
But where does that shame come from? For women, especially those who lead public lives, it comes from everywhere and nowhere, from society shouting its demands and the little internal voice that says, "not good enough." Lindeman noticed that her male peers rarely, if ever, encountered that same obstacle. So Lindeman decided to make an effort to put her shame aside, just to see what it felt like. The point was to follow her own ideas wherever they took her.
"It was like a science experiment or something, like, What if I did not listen to these ideas?," she says.
If a record like The Weather Station is the result of such experiments, then Lindeman can be assured that her experiment has paid off marvelously. Her lessons reach far beyond herself. You can be your own worst critic, but don't let it prevent you from building something beautiful.